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‘Hundreds’ of new local radio stations could be launched from next year

Graham PlumbHundreds of new local digital radio stations could be launched in the UK under new plans drawn up by the broadcasting regulator.

Ofcom has outlined proposals which will see airwaves allocated to existing and new local stations, offering them the opportunity to broadcast digitally.

The plans come after a small-scale trial implemented in 2015, and potentially opens the way for hyperlocal publishers to branch out into local radio.

Ofcom says the proposals “mark a major step towards expanding local DAB coverage, giving listeners an even wider choice of new digital radio stations”, adding “hundreds of new local digital radio stations could start broadcasting.”

At the time of the 2015 trial, digital licences were granted to stations operating in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Glasgow, London, Manchester, Norwich, Portsmouth and Woking.

Small-scale DAB technology was pioneered in the UK by one of Ofcom’s own engineers, and provides local commercial, community and specialist music stations with a low-cost route to broadcasting on digital airwaves.

By using freely available software and computer technology to transmit digital radio services, small-scale DAB enables stations to broadcast to a relatively small geographic area.

Graham Plumb, pictured, Ofcom’s director of spectrum broadcasting, said: “People increasingly prefer digital radio, and by enabling smaller stations to join this digital revolution, we can broaden the choice for local listeners up and down the country.”

A consultation on the plans will run until Friday 4 October, and Ofcom intends to start advertising licences early next year.


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  • July 8, 2019 at 11:40 am

    These could play an important role in getting information out to the public. Local organisations find it hard to publicise events as so few people buy local papers now. Some papers are being read by 2,000 people instead of 20,000 and as a consequence events do not get known. (no, people don’t go online to read about them). Some of the local community radio stations are, shall we say, a bit hit and miss, but some good new stations would be welcomed by a lot of people.

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  • July 8, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    As long as the applicants / operators are independent and not aligned to any regional press publisher I feel it’s a welcome move which will give communities a greater voice and local businesses broader coverage than the local papers can reach in these days of falling copy sale and reader numbers.

    There will no doubt be one or two of the larger groups who will see this as a threat (quite rightly) and may try to put in a bid to prevent a competitor moving in , much like Archant did with the Ill fated and costly tv licence for mustard tv, but as long as the licences go to wholly independent consortiums who have the ability to produce programming of a consistently high standard it’s potentially good news for areas and communities poorly served by the ‘ big boys’

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